Fire protection project thinning Alder Creek area |

Fire protection project thinning Alder Creek area

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunForest Service Vegetation Management Officer Scott Conway strolls up the emigrant trail along Alder Creek to check out the recent efforts of thinning crews.

ALDER CREEK “-One of Truckee’s biggest fire hazards is well on its way to being safer and healthier.

The U.S. Forest Service land along Alder Creek, north of Tahoe Donner, has been recognized by locals, foresters and even Congressman John Doolittle as a major fire risk to the community with dense, snarled woods damaged by bark beetles.

But Tahoe National Forest’s Truckee Ranger District has been chipping away at the problem, thinning and treating about half of the roughly 350-acre area, and contracting the other half to be completed in the next few years.

“If there is a project the community is depending on us to do, it’s this,” said Scott Conway, vegetation management officer with the Forest Service.

Debby Broback of the Truckee Ranger District said the Forest Service has been working in the watershed for the last two to three years, and started when the bark beetle infestation damaged and killed many of Alder Creek’s trees.

Working around the delicate stream habitat, the Forest Service and its contractors have thinned the forest, sometimes waiting for snow to use as a buffer so as to not damage the ground, Conway said.

“We’re working within the 100-year flood plain, which was previously off limits; we’ve figured out ways to reduce the fuels without greatly impacting water quality, fish habitat, or wildlife habitat,” Conway said.

However the remaining work was threatened this summer.

“Because of all the fires they basically took all the money ” about $300,000 ” away from this project,” Conway said.

Conway said he managed to get the money back, and now basically all the work is under contract to be completed within five years.

While the woods in question are close to Tahoe Donner, they also present a risk to Prosser and the Russell Valley, Conway said.

The Forest Service gets comments on the work ranging from “thanks” to “why are you messing up the forest” to “why aren’t you doing more,” Conway said.

Much of the pile burning probably won’t happen for a year in the Alder Creek project, Broback said.

“The piles are pretty green, realistically we won’t get to them until next fall,” Broback said.

She said along with the contractors doing the bulk of the work, U.S. Forest Service fire crews will help out in the sensitive areas, clearing fuels by hand where mechanized work would do too much damage.

Once work at Alder Creek is finished, Conway said the Forest Service will turn its attention to smaller projects near Alpine Meadows, Glenshire and other areas.

“This was definitely the big one,” Conway said.

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